restricted access IV HUMAN DIMENSIONS: HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTIONS
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IV. HUMAN DIMENSIONS: HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTIONS OUR RELATIONSHIPS with other animals raise numerous and complicated issues about who we are in the grand scheme of things, and big questions about how we should treat the other animal beings with whom we share Earth. As we intrude here and there, are we guardians, responsible researchers, responsible stewards, or conquerors? Our relationships with other animals range from fairly straightforward and symmetrical, especially with companion animals with whom we share our homes and our hearts, to rather complicated and asymmetrical, as with animals with whom we do not feel especially close or individuals whom we call pests because they interfere with our own often narrow and arrogant interests. (Some of these issues will also be discussed in Part V, “Ethics, Compassion, Conservation, and Activism: Redecorating Nature.”). Human effects on other animals and the environment are called anthropogenic effects. The essays in Part IV speak to some issues concerning the nature of humananimal interactions, namely, how our behavior influences the behavior of other animals and the attitudes we hold toward them. Serious and inevitable conflicts arise that need to be understood and resolved. SOME OF THE THINGS WE DO TO OTHER ANIMALS: CAN DOES NOT MEAN MUST Not only do we influence the lives of other animals in an immediate sense, but also we effect long-lasting and enduring changes in their behavior and physiology. For instance, global warming influences the distribution and behavior of animals, as well as the resources on which they depend, such as food, water, and resting spots. Depending on the pace of warming, it has been predicted that between 15 and 37 percent of species could become extinct between now and 2050 as a result of global warming. Traces of the humanmade toxin deca-BDE, a flame retardant widely used in televisions and plastic toys, are now found in polar bears and seagulls in the Arctic, and it will take years to know what its effects will be. Another human activity, hunting, not only results in the death of individual animals but also affects entire populations in unforeseen ways. For example , trophy hunting is reducing the average size of horns among bighorn sheep, because hunters selectively pick off large rams with big horns. As a result, there is less head butting among males for access to females. In addition to this change in mating behavior, there might be an effect on population genetics among these mountain monarchs. We just don’t know yet. Other studies have shown that humans can also rapidly change the feeding habits of bears who live around dumpsters; to avoid humans, they become active during the night rather than during the day. These bears become obese and lazy—fast food makes them fat. There also is a change in their natural activity patterns: they enter dens later in the fall and remain in them for shorter periods of time than do bears who do not forage at dumps. Hormones from cattle feedlots can demasculinize males and defeminize wild fish. Our fishing can induce sex changes in fish. Animals such as cougars, coyotes, foxes, and deer can become so habituated to humans that rather than flee from us they become bold and curious and intrude into our neighborhoods. The predators are regarded as endangering children and domestic animals, so they are often themselves in danger. Deer who forage among expensive suburban foliage are regarded as pests that ought to be eliminated. It’s almost trite to say that humans are all over the place, but we are. And we need to be very careful how we intrude into the lives of other animals, because we do make a big difference. The first essay in Part IV summarizes some of the ways in which we influence the behavior of animals, either intentionally or unintentionally. Knowledge of how we affect animals’ behavior will help us make more informed and intelligent choices about whether we should interfere in their lives or just let them be. We influence animals not only when we attempt to coexist with them but also when we study them. Thus, when we interfere in the lives of other animals, we often cannot answer the questions in which we are interested because of our very intrusions. There are many ways in which our research methods can influence the behavior of the animals in whom we are interested, and as a result we may form misleading inferences from data that are tainted from the start. I have...


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